Our Students are AWESOME!!!!
In the past 30+ years we have seen students who were shy, introverted, bored, unmotivated, exceptional, talented, creative, intellectual, profoundly hyper focused in a subject area, socially awkward, and so many more young individuals, with tremendous hidden potential, step out of their black and white self imagine, into their amazing unique selves. So what made the difference for them?
OPPORTUNITIES. Opportunities for growth. Opportunities for change. Opportunities to learn in an environment and program that focuses on them and their personal success.
Learning Skills & Strategies
At Gerard Prep, learning how to learn, is as important as what they learn.
We arm our students with skills and strategies that will help them throughout their lives. We teach organizational skills and how to break down long-term projects into smaller more manageable tasks. One example: The study of early Georgia is a standard of the state’s 2nd grade curriculum. The project involves a visit to the state capital, writing a paper, and creating a map of the state. We include art, story telling and expressive oratory, dressing up costumes, even cooking and food tasting; integrating learning with personal (and enjoyable) experience.
Gerard students are also encouraged to be more creative with project presentations. Although we believe poster board displays and dioramas can be useful learning tools, we also realize that they may hamper learning in children with dysgraphia. Teachers offer alternative ideas for presentations and students are encouraged to develop their own, and learning becomes not only possible for them, but results in positive outcome, ie; success.
We offer the option of digital presentations, be it video, PowerPoint or documentary style movie. We see this as a way to encourage learners to utilize technology to their advantage. It also levels the playing field so that students with impaired fine-motor skill can experience the same level of success as their peers.
Always coming up short takes a huge toll on a child’s self esteem. By the time students enroll at Gerard many have come to think of themselves as incapable. We believe that restoring a child’s self-image and resiliency is just as important as scholastic remediation.
How do we accomplish this? We create intentional opportunities for personal success. We get to know them. We find out what they love and assign work that connects to their passion, then we recognize and applaud their efforts. We know that one success leads to another. And we also know that no work accomplished is a failure. It is a time invested approach. It is not cookie cutter or whole group goal oriented, but education is a personal experience, and we do all we can to assure it remains a personally adapted journey.
The 360 Approach at Gerard is especially supportive for students with Dyslexia, Dyspraxia (disorder with motor skills), Dyscalculia (difficulties with Math), ADHA, Executive Function disorder, and mild PDD’s, and the importance of developing the tools necessary to replicate these practices in future academic settings. In order to make that happen we teach and reinforce the following life skills:
- Self-awareness and positive self image
- Self-control and time management
- Self-direction, responsibility and organization
- Emotional maturity and personal well being
- Social connection & skills
Academic Concepts and Skills
Like any traditional school, our students gain proficiency and mastery in reading, writing, math, science social studies and technology. The curriculum follows Georgia standards, however Gerard students move through units at a pace that’s conducive to their abilities within learning groups that encourage, support, expand and challenge their abilities and showcase their growing capabilities.
Literacy-Dyslexia and Dysgraphia
Because reading and writing are typically the most troublesome for dyslexics and many other learners, students have two classes per day in language. Through specific reading strategies and curriculum students gain measurable success in reading, writing and verbal expression. Emphasis on comprehension, understanding directions (both verbal and written) are each a stable foundation in our curriculum.
Math- The Truth of Dyscalculia…
Because problems with math can be just as prevalent and devastating as dyslexia for those children who struggle with it, our math program is systematic and builds on each previous lesson. Class instruction includes multi-sensory, hands-on activities, and use of manipulatives as appropriate. Skills and procedures are introduced slowly and practiced repeatedly until students are adept. The major goals for math instruction are developing basic skills, critical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving techniques. Students also have two math periods per day.
Science is an area offering great potential for many students with dyslexia. Dyslexic have a capacity for divergent and creative thinking. Investigation and inquiry come naturally to many of our students. In grades 6 + lab experiences make up approximately 50% of class sessions and the major focus is to understand scientific processes rather than remembering facts.
Our curriculum is designed to help students develop a growing understanding of the impact the past has on the present and future. Students have opportunities to become familiar with research techniques, the use of evidence and historical interpretation, and the analysis of other viewpoints. As a Christian school the bible is seen as both historical and factual. Bible studies are woven into daily morning chapel and in our history curriculum.
Because of their learning differences, proficiency with technology helps to ‘level the playing field’ for our students. Students also learn to use technology as an important communication tool. It can unleash the superior visual, three-dimensional and creative abilities abundant in our student population. Beginning in fourth grade practicing on the keyboard is mandatory and included as part of daily homework assignments. Some of the software applications that our students may use include but are not limited to Word, PowerPoint, and Dragon Speak . Other assistive technologies are taught on an as-needed basis. We also teach children to explore the internet responsibly through class research projects.
Gifts And Talents
Gerard provides an environment for students to explore their strengths and build upon them. We offer a variety of enrichment and extra curricular opportunities. This helps our students identify and nurture their talents. Each student is encouraged to explore their passions and share those with peers. One child might flex her entrepreneurial muscles by promoting a bakery business. Another might choose to develop a computer game, or shoot and edit a music video. Whatever it is, our students are encouraged to explore their interests outside the classroom walls.
At Gerard Prep, students explore many avenues of art and have the opportunity to apply these concepts in a studio setting. Students draw, paint, work with clay, prints and paper, and sculpt using mixed media and other crafts. This encourages self-discovery and self-expression. Each year the Fall Art Show provides an extraordinary exhibit of the students art work.
Our music program strives to expand students’ musical tastes.
We do this by teaching basics such as rhythm, beat, and musical type. We also expose students to musical compositions from around the world. Our music program is also designed to build new neural pathways, which in turn improve mathematics and language skills.
Each year Gerard has presented an ambitious musical production These performances are a whole school effort. Everyone from K4 and up have the opportunity to be a part of it.
Physical Education, Creative Movement and Dance
Physical movement is tied directly to brain growth and stimulation, so at Gerard Prep, every action has an intentional and planned reaction. All the activities are occupational therapist recommended as a means to enhance motor skills and improve cognitive function. Whether its yoga, an obstacle course, or a game of capture the flag, you can be sure there’s a therapeutic benefit. Gerard schools physical education program closely resembles a traditional P.E. class where activities may include exercises from the “Brain Gym”, balance training and for 4th grade and up, we offer archery.
Each sport is chosen because it lends itself well to further developing our students’ motor skills. For our younger students, in grades K4 through three, we see motor function as such a key piece of remediation that we actually provide them with three additional periods of movement each week. This additional class focuses on sequencing, spatial awareness, rhythm and dance.